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Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business
and life you love. There has never been a better time to grow an audience for your products,
your services, and your ideas. But with all the noise out there, how do we not only stand
out, but also ensure that our work has real impact in the world? Well, my guest today
says the key is in finding our authentic voice, and he’s here to show us how.
Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday
brilliance. He’s the author of 3 books: “The Accidental Creative,” “Die Empty,”
and “Louder than Words,” which have been translated into more than a dozen languages
and he speaks and consults internationally on creativity, leadership, and passion for
work. His last book, “Die Empty,” was named by Amazon.com as one of the best books
of 2013. His latest book, “Louder than Words,” is about how to develop an authentic voice
that resonate and creates impact. International bestselling author Tom Rath called it, “One
of the best guides to living a meaningful life I have ever read.”
Todd, thank you so much for coming on MarieTV.
Thank you for inviting me.
So “Louder than Words,” you guys, I read this cover to cover. It’s amazing. I have
so many notes. I have, like, things circled and highlighted and things that I sent to
the team. It’s just brilliant. One of the things that you say that I loved: “Attention
for your work is not a birthright. To stand out you must develop an authentic, compelling
voice.” Talk to me about why you wanted to write this book.
So I’ve noticed over the last couple of years working with creative professionals,
people in the marketplace, there’s a lot of conversation about building a platform.
Right? And how can you create a platform, how can you grow an audience, how can you
get attention for your work? And I think that’s helpful to have that kind of conversation
going, but I think we often ignore a… I think a more rudimentary conversation we need
to be having, which is how do you develop a voice that’s worth putting on a platform?
So I think starting with platform and asking yourself how do I grow an audience, how do
I grow attention for my work is kind of putting the cart before the horse. I think first we
have to have the conversation about what is it that I want to be on that platform. Right?
What do I actually want to get out into the world? What impact do I want to have? I think
that’s the first and the most fundamental question we have to ask before you even begin
to think about how do I grow a platform and gain attention.
I agree with you 100%. So much so. We have the honor of working with tens of thousands
of creatives through B-School and that’s one of the things. It’s like, “Well, what
are you taking a stand for? What’s important to you? What is the message that you wanna
use this platform for?” And that’s why I’m so excited about your book, because
I think it is the most fundamental and important question and I think for any of us, whether
we’re just starting out or, you know, I’ve been doing this over 15 years now. These are
the questions in your book that I continue to ask myself. And I think it’s for people
that are… have been on the journey for a while and want to evolve their platform. And
there’s even more brilliance. Again, I have to quote you exactly because it’s so perfectly
said. On page 151 you write, “You have to allow the idea to breathe, which sometimes
means engaging in activity that is gloriously inefficient.” And you talk a lot about people
really don't give themselves enough permission, especially in the early stages, to wander
around. Can we talk about this? Because I feel like I see so much about this hacking
and mind hacking and productivity hacking and creativity hacking, and in my personal
experience there ain’t no shortcuts. You can’t be “efficient” all the time if
you want to do work that really matters. So what’s your perspective on this?
I think there’s a real tendency in our culture right now to sacrifice effectiveness on the
altar of short term efficiency. Right? And you’re right, there’s all this conversation
about hacking and shortcuts and all of these things. And that can be effective I think
for some things, but not about the things that matter. I think in the long term, I think
that we need to be carving out white space in our life, because innovation happens in
the white space. When we squeeze all of the white space out of our life we’re not allowing
our ideas to marinate, we’re not allowing them to breathe, we’re not allowing them
to emerge into their full potential. I think so often there’s a lot of conversation about
shipping and getting things out and pushing things into the world, and that’s great,
because I think some people because of a perfectionistic tendency they might hold onto ideas too long
and never get them out into the marketplace trying to make them perfect. But I think sometimes
on the opposite side of the equation, sometimes we push things out before we really have asked
the deeper questions about what is this, what am I really trying to introduce, what change
do I really want to see through this work or this project or whatever it is? And so
we push things out prematurely sometimes without asking those questions. And just stepping
back sometimes to breathe, to create some space around that project, can allow us to
sometimes make the project exactly what it needs to be in order to resonate.
Yeah.
Now, that’s not to excuse not shipping. Right? Because we all have to, you know, we
can easily slip to the other side of the equation and try to make things too perfect. But, yeah,
we need to create that white space. Sometimes we need to do things that are very inefficient
in the short run so we can be effective in the long run.
I love that. So much of my work, like, I have things that I’ve written, there are projects
that, you know, something that we have that’s been in the incubation for years. And there’s
a part of my brain, right, that wants to get it done and get it out there. But I think
there’s the wiser part of myself that watches it over time and watches it get better. And
whenever my brain starts to want to beat myself up because I’m like, “Look at all those
things I’ve wrote and I never use them,” I have to remember, it’s actually part of
the layering process, that wandering around that gets to the real good stuff. And I haven’t
heard many people talk about that because it’s just go, go, go, push, push, push,
so I was so happy that you created this container for us to say, “Yes, you don't have to be
so efficient all the time and the really meaningful stuff comes when you let yourself wander a
little bit.”
It does and you’re right, I mean, success I think comes in layers. It doesn't come all
at once. I mean, for most people and we, you know, we talk about unicorns, we talk about
the outliers, the people who just shoot straight to the top. And success often is not as substantive
and it doesn't last often as much for people who shoot straight to the top. They don't
have those layers of experience and learning. Their body of work isn’t going to be as
substantive. Sometimes it is, sometimes, you know, but I think that we have to… we have
to recognize that it takes time. Anything worth doing takes time.
Yeah.
Building a body of work you can be proud of takes time. And a lot of people, like yourself,
you make it look very easy because you’ve been doing this for a while. Right? And so
people look at you and they think, “Well, I wanna be just like Marie.” But the reality
is that it took you a long time to get to the place where you can make it look easy.
And I still struggle. I mean, I still go back into the writing cave, I still have those
same fears. Am I gonna have anything worthwhile to say? You know, am I gonna run out? And
so I think also too it’s really important to have that conversation, you know, this
is your third book, you know, so clearly this isn’t your first time out of the gate. But
I think it’s important for people that have been creating well to also say those things.
I personally never find it easy. You know? Even though whatever it looks like on the
outside, it’s still, there’s… but it’s good challenge.
It is. And I think we don’t… that’s the thing. I think we don't talk about the
struggle. The struggle of making things, the struggle of creating, the battle against ego,
the battle against pride, the battle against the fear of failure. And we don't talk about
those things. We show everybody the finished product and say, “Ta da, look what I made,”
but we don't talk about the, you know, the long slog that we had to walk through in order
to get to that place where we finally felt some resolution about who we are and what
we’re doing in the world. And the process of developing your voice is the process of
walking through that long slog. And it’s gonna be ugly, you’re gonna lose your bearing,
you know, you’re not always gonna know exactly where you’re going or what you're trying
to do. But it’s the courage to continue, the courage to continue taking small risks
day after day and pushing into uncomfortable, unknown places. The people who have the courage
to do that or the people who eventually wind up in the place where they’re building a
contributive body of work that really matters and that is ultimately unique.
Yes. And tagging off of that, one of the other things you talk about that I love is that
every creative project having a U shape and that so many people misinterpret the bottom
of that U when they are struggling as they’re being, you know, they’re doing something
wrong, they’re on the wrong path, maybe they should quit. Can you tell us more about
that U shape?
Yeah. So this resulted from a conversation I had with Lisa Congdon, who is a brilliant
artist. She said that one of her art school teachers told her that every creative project
has a U shape and it’s like walking into a canyon. Right? So when you’re on one side
of a canyon and you’re looking across at your destination, you can see the other side
of the canyon. Everything is clear. I mean, you can see the path and everything, you know,
because you have a bird's eye view of everything. And then you start hiking down into the canyon
and you get to the bottom and all of a sudden the bushes are scraping against your thighs
and the path becomes a little bit more murky and you can’t quite tell where you’re
supposed to go and you can’t really see your destination anymore. And when you’re
in the bottom of the canyon and you can’t really see your destination and everything
is more murky, I think a lot of people start to question their sense of direction, they
start to question is this a worthy trip to begin with? Should I have even done this?
Was this wise? And then the sun starts to go down and you hear animals, you know, all
around you and… at least that’s what I imagine what happens. And you start to get
afraid and you start to think maybe my life is on the line here. And then you start to
hike up the other side of the canyon and suddenly your destination comes in view. It’s a long
way off but you can see it again. And then right at sunset you’re standing on the other
side, you can see the sun go down, it’s beautiful, totally worth it, it’s amazing,
you can see where you started. We all go through that as part of a creative process. It’s
like hiking down into a canyon. And so you start off with excitement and enthusiasm and
it’s so clear, you know exactly where you’re gonna go. And when you get in the middle…
and I don't care who you are, I don't care how successful you are, I don't care how many
successes you’ve had before, how celebrated your work is, it always in the middle feels
like a slog. It always feels like I’m never gonna get out of this, should I have even
started this, what if I fail? Especially if you have eyes on you. Right?
Yes.
Especially if you’ve had success. In the middle you say, “If I fail, what is this
gonna mean?” because you feel like the stakes are really high at that point. And I think
sometimes people think, “Well, the more success you have the easier it gets,” and
I think it’s actually the opposite. I think that once you have a lot of eyeballs on you
and people are judging you and looking at you, it, in some cases, becomes even harder.
So the reality is that everybody feels that way, everybody questions themselves when they
get in the middle of a long arc project like that. And the only solution is to try to keeps
your eyes fixed on the direction you think you should be moving and continue slogging
up the hill. That’s the only way to get through it. And the reality is everybody goes
through that, we just have to keep pushing forward.
Love it. Totally love it. The other thing that really resonated for me in the book was
your stories about DJ Z-Trip and his comparison of the creative journey to climbing a tree.
Can you share that with us?
Yeah. So Z-Trip is this brilliant DJ who has kind of shepherded this movement called the
mashup movement, where he takes rock and he takes hip hop and he kind of mixes all these
different genres together into one composition. And I was asking him, I was at a concert and
we were kind of sitting around backstage and I said, “Tell me, how do you… how did
you find your voice as an artist? How did you develop your voice?” He said, “Well,
this is what it was like for me.” He said, “So we all have roots. Right? And our roots
are our influences and those roots grow up into a trunk, into a tree trunk. And so we
all start as artists, we all start by climbing the trunk. So we’re kind of hugging the
trunk, our influences, we’re staying close to our influences. And once we get a certain
way up the trunk we have to decide, am I gonna step out on a branch? Am I gonna move away
from the trunk? Am I gonna step away from my influences?” And so whether you’re
a writer, entrepreneur, whatever, we all reach that crossroads. We have to say, “Am I gonna
step away from my influences and start to find my own thing?” And he said, “So I
just started stepping out on a branch and I said I’m gonna choose a branch, I’m
gonna make myself unique, and this is what I’m gonna do.” And so thinking I’m being
really quick witted I said, “Well, what happens when you get too far out on the branch?
You get too far out and the branch breaks because, you know, branches are really tenuous.”
He said, “Well, the thing is, most people aren’t gonna follow you too far out on the
branch. They might follow you for a while, but if you have enough courage and you get
far enough out on the branch, people aren’t gonna go out with you because the branch gets
really thin and they’re afraid it’s gonna break.” “And so what if it does break?”
He said, “Well, that’s the beautiful thing. Once the branch breaks it falls to the ground
and it forms a new trunk and then people start following you. They start imitating you and
now you’re the trunk, you’re the influence.” And I thought that’s a brilliant articulation
of what the creative growth process looks like. Because we all began by imitating our
heroes, by imitating the people who inspired us, even closely imitating, emulating. Right?
Absolutely.
But at some point we have to be willing to make a decision. We have to make choices to
deviate from our influences and be bold and be unique. We have to decide. And that word
decide comes from the root word that means to cut off. I think a lot of times we’re
afraid to decide because we’re afraid of missing out on opportunities. But the reality
is, brilliant contributors, resonant voices are people who made the decision to deviate
from those influences and to carve their own path, to do something unique, and to go out
on the branch even when it seemed like the branch might break. Right? To push out into
those uncomfortable places.
You know, which leads right into where I wanna go next with you, was another brilliant thing
that you talked about in the book, which I talk about a lot: comparison. You know, we
all start out having influences and people that we admire and people we look up to and
we emulate their work. But I think at many points in the journey you can get sidetracked
if you are constantly looking to the right and to the left and anyone else in your industry
and you’re following what everyone is doing and you see someone have success with a certain
strategy or doing a certain thing and you wanna go chase them. You talk about running
your own race. So I’m just curious whether it’s your own personal experience or experience
with any clients, what has that been like for you in terms of running your own race?
It’s a real challenge because I think you see what other people are doing and you see
what’s working and the tendency is to want to… you’re on this path, they’re on
this path, the tendency is to want to maybe steer your path over to what you see working
or to see… steer toward where all the people are, where the audience is, where the eyeballs
are. A funny thing happens when you’re running your own race: your peripheral vision can
be a blessing and a curse because if you see people coming up on you and you turn, you
start looking at them, your body will naturally want to run, you know, toward that person.
Your body goes where your eyeballs are. And I think the same thing applies in the marketplace.
I think that peripheral vision can be good because you can learn from what other people
are doing, you can study them and say, “Hey, is there anything they’re doing I can apply
to what I’m doing to make myself better and more resonant?” But you don't want to
get into a situation where you start looking at them so closely that your path starts to
merge with theirs. You have to have the courage to run your own race. And so for me that means
a writer, if somebody writes books, somebody who is out consulting and doing things, of
course I’m aware of what my peers are doing. You know? But I recognize that there is a
unique body of work that I am wired to build. It’s not my job to build their body of work,
they’re not accountable for building my body of work. You know, I have my body of
work, I have to focus on that, on my calling, on the people that I’m supposed to serve.
And you know what? That might mean that my body of work is not as celebrated as somebody
else’s. It might mean I don't get as many eyeballs or as much attention as somebody
else does, and I have to be ok with that because it’s not my job to build their body of work.
It’s my job to build my body of work. Semantics matter, small decisions matter. You have to
know who you are, you have to know what you care about, the battles that you deem worth
fighting, and you have to steep yourself in that on a regular basis so that you don't
compromise and you don't just follow opportunity when it presents itself. Instead you have
a framework for making decisions about what you care about, about the body of work you’re
building.
Absolutely. One of the other things before we wrap today that I thought was just so awesome,
such a subtle distinction yet so huge. This idea between evoking and provoking, and this
is something that really fires me up. You wrote, “A lot of emotion laden messages
are provocative. They’re designed to elicit a desired reaction, but often with little
concern about what will happen after the moment of response. They’re designed for instant
gratification,” and you move on to say, “Provoking means putting a finger in their
chest and picking a fight. Pushing their buttons until they have to do something about it.”
Talk to us about the distinction here.
Yeah, so I think we have to approach our work as if we’re partners with the people that
we’re trying to reach, that we’re trying to serve. And I think provocation, control
can achieve results in the short run. But you’re not making friends and you’re not
really helping people. You’re just trying to provoke a response, right? But when you
evoke, when you pull the best out of, you pull something out of them, you’re helping
them go to a new place. You’re trying to pull the best of who they are out of them.
And I think as somebody who wants to build a resonant body of work, I think we have to
focus on evocation, not provocation. We all knew that neighborhood bully, right, the sort
of line in the sand person who, you know, was all about putting a finger in your chest
and provoking you and trying to control you. And I think, you know, those kinds of people
are prevalent in the marketplace as well. You know, you just kind of never really feel
good about interacting with their brand or with their business because you feel like
they’re always sort of putting a finger in your chest and using whatever tactics they
can in order to get attention. And so I believe that if you want to resonate, you have to
focus on evoking the best in people, pulling the best out of them, helping them become
who they want to be. Right? And partnering with them in that cause.
I think it’s so important too both for our own work, but I also think, and something
that’s just been really firing me up lately, as I observe, and I don't participate nearly
as much in the world of social media and, you know, stuff as people may think I do,
it always astounds me how so many folks are just so willing to throw a bomb out there
in someone else’s environment and with no regard for what type of impact that’s going
to have on all the other people. You know, that person, their team, how they have to
respond. And this is what I loved about this idea of, you know, evoking. It’s like really
taking the time to ask ourselves and be responsible for our communication.
Right.
You know, whether, again, it’s in this kind of micro sense of how we’re interacting
with each other or on the macro sense of our body of work, to really check ourselves before
we wreck ourselves or other people and create some problems that you can’t take back.
That’s exactly right. And you mentioned something, taking responsibility for your
body of work. Right? And ultimately I think that’s what developing your voice is about.
It’s about taking responsibility for the impact that you want to have in the world,
understanding your identity, who you are, and what you really care about. It’s about
understanding the vision that you have for yourself, for your work, for the people that
you want to serve. And it’s also about understanding what it is you need to master, you know, what
you need to be responsible for so you can bring that body of work into the world. And
I think that at the heart of it, that really is the core message that we need to embrace
if we want to develop a body of work is that we’re responsible for the impact of our
work. We’re responsible for how it connects with, how it leads, how it impacts the world
around us. And so we have to make sure that that reflects our values, what we care about,
and sometimes that means maybe compromising the amount of attention we get in the short
run so that we build something we can be proud of in the long run. So I think a really good
question to ask yourself is how much work am I gonna do today I’ll be proud of in
10 years? You know, and if you can answer that question in the affirmative more often
than not, then you’re probably gonna build a body of work you can be proud of.
Todd, you are just fantastic. Thank you so much for all the work that you’ve created
so far. I absolutely love this. Again, “Louder than Words.” Trust me, you will adore this.
There is so much in there, it’ll last you a year. All the great work that you put out
for us, so I really, really appreciate it. Thank you.
Thank you.
Now Todd and I have a challenge for you. If you wish to be successful in causing your
work to resound, you must account for each of the 3 confluent factors: 1. What do I care
about? 2. What do they care about? 3. What ideas already have momentum? Let us know your
answers in the comments below. Now, as always, the best discussions happen after the episode
over at MarieForleo.com, so go there and leave a comment now. Did you like this video? If
so, subscribe to our channel and, of course, I’d be so appreciative if you shared this
with your friends. And if you want even more resources to create a business and life that
you love, plus some personal insights from me that I only talk about in email, come on
over to MarieForleo.com and make sure you sign up for email updates. Stay on your game
and keep going for your dreams because the world needs that special gift that only you
have. Thank you so much for watching and we’ll catch you next time on MarieTV.
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How To Find Your Voice: Todd Henry & Marie Forleo

2061 Folder Collection
SylviaQQ published on September 4, 2015
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